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Can Architecture Save China’s Rural Villages? DnA’s Xu Tiantian Thinks So

07:15 - 20 April, 2018
Bamboo Pavilion. Image © Zhou Ruogo
Bamboo Pavilion. Image © Zhou Ruogo

Travel seven hours by car in a Southwest direction from Shanghai and you will arrive in Songyang County. The name is unfamiliar to many Chinese people, and even more foreign to those living abroad. The county consists of about 400 villages, from Shicang to Damushan.

Here, undulating lush green terraces hug the sides of Songyin river valley, itself the one serpentine movement uniting the lands. Follow the river and you will see: here, a Brown Sugar Factory; there, a Bamboo Theatre; and on the other side, a stone Hakka Museum built recently but laid by methods so old, even the town masons had to learn these ways for the first time, as if they were modern methods, as if they were revolutionary.

And maybe they are. Songyang County, otherwise known as the “Last Hidden Land in Jiangnan,” may look like a traditional Chinese painting with craggy rock faces, rice fields and tea plantations, but it has also become a model example of rural renaissance. Beijing architect Xu Tiantian, of the firm DnA_Design and Architecture, has spent years surveying the villages of Songyang, talking to local County officials and residents, and coming up with what she calls “architectural acupunctures.”

Xu Tiantian’s story is an interesting one about inspiring rural self-confidence and turning provincial attitudes towards outsiders into welcoming, open arms through her architecture. She explains how she did it, and why this is important to China, in the exhibition “Rural Moves—The Songyang Story.

Brown Sugar Factory. Image © Wang Ziling Teahouse, Damushan Tea Valley. Image © Chen Hao Teahouse, Damushan Tea Valley. Image © Jiang Xiaodong Bamboo Pavilion. Image © Zhou Ruogo Bridge at Shimen Village. Image © Wang Ziling Pine Park Pavilion. Image © Wang Ziling Pine Park Pavilion. Image © Wang Ziling Bamboo Theatre. Image © Wang Ziling + 69

Zaha Hadid Architects Designs Parabolic-Vaulted School Campus in Rural China

09:40 - 19 April, 2018
Zaha Hadid Architects Designs Parabolic-Vaulted School Campus in Rural China, © VA
© VA

Zaha Hadid Architects has unveiled its design for the Lushan Primary School, an educational campus that will serve around 120 students from 12 villages in a rural area of Jiangxi Province in China. The design features a series of barrel and parabolic vaults constructed from concrete, which are oriented to offer optimum lighting conditions and views out to the landscape.

© VA © Zaha Hadid Architects © Zaha Hadid Architects © VA + 11

Growing Up in a Glass House: What Is it Like to Be the Daughter of an Uncompromising Modernist Architect?

09:30 - 19 April, 2018
Growing Up in a Glass House: What Is it Like to Be the Daughter of an Uncompromising Modernist Architect?, Courtesy of Elizabeth W Garber
Courtesy of Elizabeth W Garber

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Growing Up in a Glass House: An Architect’s Daughter Explores Modernism’s Shadow."

Elizabeth W Garber’s new book, Implosion: A Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter (She Writes Press), tells the story of growing up in a glass house, designed by her father, Woodie Garber, once called “Cincinnati’s most extreme, experimental, and creative Modernist architect.” The memoir, which will be released in June, focuses on a family caught in a collision between modern architecture, radical social change, and madness in the turbulent 1960s in Cincinnati. Recently I talked to Garber about the book, the strictures of Modernism, and why she couldn’t live in a glass house today.

Building Burning Man: The Unique Architectural Challenges of Setting Up a City in the Desert

09:30 - 18 April, 2018
The Black Rock Lighthouse Service by Jonny & Max Poynton. Image © Dan Adams
The Black Rock Lighthouse Service by Jonny & Max Poynton. Image © Dan Adams

Every year in August, a temporary metropolis is erected in Black Rock City, Nevada. This is Burning Man, an annual event of art and architecture that attracts some 70,000 participants. The people who come to Burning Man come from all walks of life. What is incredible is that they come together to construct an ephemeral city that lasts for 7 days. These people assume the role of architects and construction workers and use the desert to build all sorts of shelters in a fast, sustainable way. The desert is so remote, and everything built in Black Rock City is packed and taken home at the end of the event, and some of the art is burned on site. This poses a unique architectural challenge. The people who have come to build these structures have to plan them way in advance to accommodate all the challenges of working in the desert, but the result is worth it - a striking, unique city, democratically built, set against a desert landscape, and for only one week.

We had the chance to interview Kim Cook at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin. Kim Cook is Director of Art and Civic Engagement at Burning Man. Kim Cook and her team are tasked with increasing the impact of Burning Man’s arts and civic initiatives. As part of her role, Kim engages with artists and community leaders to increase opportunities for funding, collaboration and learning.

The Black Rock Lighthouse Service by Jonny & Max Poynton. Image © Joe Sale Tangential Dreams by artist Arthur Mamou-Mani. Image © Debra Wolff Tangential Dreams by artist Arthur Mamou-Mani. Image © Ales, Dust to Ashes The Space Whale by The Pier Group with Matthew Schultz, Android Jones and Andy Tibbetts. Image © Zipporah Lomax + 6

Why We Shouldn't Build a Memorial for the Grenfell Fire—Not Yet At Least

04:00 - 18 April, 2018
Why We Shouldn't Build a Memorial for the Grenfell Fire—Not Yet At Least , The burned remains of Grenfell Tower in London. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/35651730645'>Flickr user londonmatt</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
The burned remains of Grenfell Tower in London. Image © Flickr user londonmatt licensed under CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Why the Best Response to the Grenfell Tower Fire Isn’t a Memorial."

Memorials play an integral role in marking significant people, moments, or events. In recent years, they have become glorifications of tragedy by attempting to express unimaginable horrors in poetic and beautiful ways. The issue with the many forms that memorials take is that they seek to placate the immediate reaction and hurt of an event, an understandable societal reaction, but one that often feels rote and hallow.

But what if memorials sought to preserve the memory of those affected by offering a solution that addressed how the tragedy occurred? The international response to tragedy has, by default, become to install a statue, build a wall, create a healing water feature, erect an aspirational sculptural object, or simply rename a park. None of these responses are inherently bad—they’re usually well-meaning and on occasion quite moving—but there is another approach available to us: changing the public perception of memorials by looking at them through the lens of solutions, encouraging people to think of them as a testament or proper response to tragedy, not just a plaque that over time goes unnoticed. While this approach might be difficult in some instances, the case of Grenfell Tower fire in London presents a rather obvious solution.

How Satellite Images of the Earth at Night Help Us Understand Our World and Make Better Cities

09:30 - 17 April, 2018
How Satellite Images of the Earth at Night Help Us Understand Our World and Make Better Cities, Nighttime view of Western Europe: England (top right), Paris (bright city near the middle of the image) and Belgium and the Netherlands (middle-right of frame). Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center
Nighttime view of Western Europe: England (top right), Paris (bright city near the middle of the image) and Belgium and the Netherlands (middle-right of frame). Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Satellite images of Earth at night make for fascinating, beautiful pictures. But they also confront us with a growing form of pollution. Why do we waste so much energy to light outer space when we only need light on the ground? High-resolution satellite data can now deliver detailed insights into how humans have shaped the night, and these earth observation systems are about to reform our urban planning. They can become an integral part of project development and control, as many strange ecological, political and social phenomena become apparent with a closer look at the night-time imagery of our planet.

Is Architecture Synonymous with Stress?

06:00 - 17 April, 2018
Is Architecture Synonymous with Stress?, © Filipe Vasconcelos
© Filipe Vasconcelos

The idea of becoming an architect and working in the field can seem to go against notions of a good work-life balance. With long journeys, pressing deadlines and the need to make informed decisions quickly, combined with potentially low wages and a quagmire of tricky working relationships and red-tape, architecture is conceived to be one of the most stressful professions.

A survey by Architect's Journal in 2016 found that 25% of UK architecture students are seeking mental health related treatments. In an article by Jennifer Whelan, published in May 2014 about mental health of architectural students, the author discusses the results of research conducted by the University of Toronto Graduate Student of Architecture, Landscape and Design (GALDSU) where the majority of students admitted to regularly pulling all-nighters, skipping meals, forgoing extracurricular social activities, and rarely exercising in order to finish projects on time.

The Next Sustainability Crisis: Humans Are Using So Much Sand That We May Actually Run Out

09:30 - 16 April, 2018
Objects made of Finite, a material developed by students from Imperial College London using desert sand. Image Courtesy of Finite
Objects made of Finite, a material developed by students from Imperial College London using desert sand. Image Courtesy of Finite

Sand is the most-consumed natural resource in the world after water and air. Modern cities are built out of it. In the construction industry alone, it is estimated that 25 billion tons of sand and gravel are used every year. That may sound a lot, but it’s not a surprising figure when you consider how everything you’re surrounded with is probably made of the stuff.

But it’s running out.

This is a scary fact to think about once you realize that sand is required to make both concrete and asphalt, not to mention every single window on this planet. The United Nations Environment Programme found out that from 2011 to 2013, China alone used more cement than the United States had used in the entire 20th century and in 2012, the world used enough concrete to build a wall around the equator that would be 89 feet high and 89 feet thick (27 by 27 meters).

AD Classics: Arts United Center / Louis Kahn

06:00 - 16 April, 2018
© Jeffery Johnson
© Jeffery Johnson

In 1961, the architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned by the Fine Arts Foundation to design and develop a large arts complex in central Fort Wayne, Indiana. The ambitious Fine Art Center, now known as the Arts United Center, would cater to the community of 180,000 by providing space for an orchestra, theatre, school, gallery, and much more. As a Lincoln Center in miniature, the developers had hoped to update and upgrade the city through new civic architecture. However, due to budget constraints, only a fraction of the overall scheme was completed. It is one of Kahn’s lesser-known projects that spanned over a decade, and his only building in the Midwest. 

Is This the Most Beautiful Ghost Town Ever? Drone Video Captures Chinese Village Reclaimed by Nature

09:30 - 15 April, 2018

As the shadows of the past loom around what’s left of the overgrown houses and pathways, videographer Joe Nafis has perfectly captured the rare charm of the abandoned fishing village of Houtouwan using his drone. From above, you can appreciate the extent of the foliage carpeting the walls, roofs, and openings. It was the promise of this unlikely setting that first led Nafis to visit the village as part of a fashion shoot.

© Joe Nafis © Joe Nafis © Joe Nafis © Joe Nafis + 25

Somali Architecture Students Digitally Preserve Their Country's Heritage—Before It's Too Late

09:30 - 14 April, 2018
via Somali Architecture
via Somali Architecture

Since the start of civil war in 1991, the political and architectural landscapes of the East African country of Somalia have been unstable. While the country’s urban centers, such as the capital city Mogadishu, boast a diverse fabric of historic mosques, citadels, and monuments alongside modernist civic structures, the decades of conflict have resulted in the destruction of many important structures. And, while the fighting has substantially subsided in recent years, the future of the country's architectural heritage is still far from secure.

In response, Somali architecture students from across the UK, Italy, and the United States have banded together to form Somali Architecture, an ongoing research project archiving and digitally "rebuilding" iconic structures through 3D models. Their goal is “to preserve the identity and authenticity” of Somalia through its architecture—both existing and destroyed. “We want each iconic building of the past to be reinterpreted for a more coherent future,” they say.

See below for a selection of the structures Somali Architecture has uncovered and re-constructed so far.

Why Snøhetta's "A House to Die In" Is One of Norway's Most Controversial Construction Projects

09:30 - 13 April, 2018
Why Snøhetta's "A House to Die In" Is One of Norway's Most Controversial Construction Projects, Rendering of proposed design for A House to Die In, as seen ascending the hill. Image © MIR and Snøhetta
Rendering of proposed design for A House to Die In, as seen ascending the hill. Image © MIR and Snøhetta

This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Inside the Design of Norway’s Most Controversial Building."

The sun is setting fast over a half-frozen hill about five miles west of Oslo. Named Kikkut after a now-demolished villa, the site neighbors Ekely, the old estate of Edvard Munch (itself now half razed), and save for some graffiti-covered detritus and an early crop of spring wildflowers, its peak is totally barren. Squinting northward to Munch’s Winter Atelier some 500 feet in the distance, it’s hard to believe this is the proposed site for A House to Die In: one of the most controversial building proposals in recent Norwegian history.

The brainchild of Norway’s enfant terrible artist Bjarne Melgaard, the proposal for “A House to Die In” is a luminescent, UFO-like living sculpture that doubles as a studio and home for Melgaard and his parents. With financial backing from two of the most powerful property developers in the country, the Selvaags and Sealbay A/S—longterm friends of the artist who also supplied the plot of land on the outskirts of the city—the Oslo-based Melgaard approached local Norwegian firm Snøhetta in 2011 with his idea for a combined artwork, studio—and final resting place.

Is Religious Architecture Still Relevant?

09:30 - 12 April, 2018
Is Religious Architecture Still Relevant?, Salisbury Cathedral. Image© <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/cathedraljack/37235357646'>Flickr user JackPeasePhotography</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
Salisbury Cathedral. Image© Flickr user JackPeasePhotography licensed under CC BY 2.0

Some of the greatest architectural works throughout history have been the result of religion, driven by the need to construct spaces where humanity could be one step closer to a higher power. With more people choosing a secular lifestyle than ever before, are the effects that these buildings convey—timelessness, awe, silence and devotion, what Louis Kahn called the “immeasurable” and Le Corbusier called the “ineffable”—no longer relevant?

With the Vatican’s proposal for the 2018 Venice Biennale, described as “a sort of pilgrimage that is not only religious but also secular,” it is clear that the role of "religious" spaces is changing from the iconography of organized religion to ambiguous spaces that reflect the idea of "spirituality" as a whole.

So what does this mean? Is there still a key role for spirituality in architecture? Is it possible to create spaces for those of different faiths and those without faith at all? And what makes a space "spiritual" in the first place?

When it Comes to Building a Better Airport, "It Never Pays to Use Cheap Materials"

09:30 - 11 April, 2018
When it Comes to Building a Better Airport, "It Never Pays to Use Cheap Materials", Washington Dulles Internation Airport - Main Terminal Expansion. Image © Rick Latoff
Washington Dulles Internation Airport - Main Terminal Expansion. Image © Rick Latoff

Airport design is both an art and a science: the best terminals are not only functional, but also beautiful and awe-inspiring spaces. Millions of people pass through these terminals every day, yet few understand their inner workings as well as Roger Duffy and Derek A.R. Moore—design leaders at SOM who have conceptualized some of the most ambitious aviation projects around the world, including Terminal 2 at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. In this interview, Moore, a Director, and Duffy, a Design Partner, reflect on the complicated challenges of airport design, and how these constraints can fuel creative solutions.

Changi International Airport - Terminal 3. Image © Tim Griffith Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport – Terminal 2. Image Courtesy of SOM / Robert Polidori © Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 1. Image © Timothy Hursley Washington Dulles Internation Airport - Automated People Mover Station. Image Courtesy of SOM / © Jeff Goldberg | Esto + 15

Time-Lapse Follows the Demolition of Over 25 Buildings (And it is Even More Satisfying Than You Think)

08:00 - 11 April, 2018

As Shanghai works hard to become an international economic, financial, trade and shipping center of the world, the city powers behind to keep up with the ever-growing needs. Joe Natisvideo follows the demolition of the buildings that didn’t quite make the cut for the fast-paced 21st century living as soaring skyscrapers and developments take their place. 

© Joe Nafis © Joe Nafis © Joe Nafis © Joe Nafis + 41

4 Takes on Why Sound Design Is Crucial to Good Architecture

09:30 - 10 April, 2018
reSITE's RESONATE conference was held at the MAAT Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. Image © Joel Felipe
reSITE's RESONATE conference was held at the MAAT Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. Image © Joel Felipe

What is the role of sound and acoustics in the work of leading architecture practices? In February this year, reSITE and MAAT in collaboration with Meyer Sound hosted RESONATE: Thinking Sound and Space, a conference focused exclusively on the intersection of architecture and sound.

Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Snøhetta's Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, Michael Jones from Foster + Partners, the founders of Meyer Sound, and the pioneer of sound art Bernhard Leitner spoke with reSITE and Canal 180 at MAAT Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. Below are the 4 episodes in the series, where they discuss the role of sound in designing cultural venues and concert halls and the changing role of the architect in an age of specialization:

On Jørn Utzon's 100th Birthday, 11 Prominent Architects Pay Tribute to the Great Architect

09:30 - 9 April, 2018
© <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/5958688179/'>Flickr user seier</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
© Flickr user seier licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the leading Danish architect, Jørn Utzon. Notably responsible for what could be argued to be the most prominent building in the world, the Sydney Opera House, Utzon accomplished what many architects can only dream of: a global icon. To celebrate this special occasion, Louisiana Channel has collaborated with the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark to put together a video series to hear prominent architects and designers talk, including Bjarke Ingels and Renzo Piano, about their experiences with Utzon and his work—from his unrivalled visual awareness of the world, to his uncompromising attitude that led him to create such strong architectural statements.

Unlike many architects around at the time of Jørn Utzon, who as modernists rejected tradition in favour of new technologies and orthogonal plans, Utzon combined these usually contradictory qualities in an exceptional manner. As the architects recount, he was a globalist with a Nordic base, that has inspired the next generation to travel the world and challenge their concepts. Many of them compare his work to Alvar Aalto’s, as both shared an organic approach to architecture, looking at growth patterns in nature for inspiration. Utzon even coined this approach "Additive Architecture," whereby both natural and cultural forms are united to form buildings that are designed more freely.

Bataan Chapel by Swiss Artist Not Vital Questions the Boundaries Between Art and Architecture

07:45 - 8 April, 2018
Bataan Chapel by Swiss Artist Not Vital Questions the Boundaries Between Art and Architecture, Interior of the Chapel, lit by the opening above "The Last Supper." Image © Eric Gregory Powell
Interior of the Chapel, lit by the opening above "The Last Supper." Image © Eric Gregory Powell

Art, in general, is produced to be seen or experienced by another, an interlocutor, who, in turn, establishes various relationships with the work. However, this does not appear to be the case with the Bataan Chapel, built by the Swiss artist Not Vital in the Philippines.

Punished by constant winds, the work rises on a hill in rural Bagac, a town of just under 30,000 inhabitants located about 50 kilometers west of Manilla. The remote location of the installation makes it difficult to access and makes the journey a task that takes on the air of pilgrimage—part of its grace lies precisely in its inaccessibility.